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ON THIS DAY: When Fredi nearly forgot to take the ball against Ipswich

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
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There hadn’t been a Bolton Wanderers player claim a match-ball in a top-flight game for 39 years – and had it been down to Fredi Bobic, the wait would have gone on longer.

The German striker netted a hat-trick against Ipswich Town on April 6, 2002, to ease lingering relegation fears for Sam Allardyce’s side and put George Burley’s Tractor Boys bang in trouble.

But Bobic nearly left the building after Bolton’s 4-1 win without taking the traditional memento for a hat-trick scorer.

"My team-mates said I must have the ball and I said 'Okay, but why?'” he explained the following day.

“I've scored a hat-trick but it's different in Germany, where they don't get the ball.

"But it's nice and I will clean it and next week they can sign it. I'm very proud, very happy. Winning 4-0 at half time and three goals for me ... what more can I say?"

Selecting the first of his three goals as the most important, he added: "It was the first chance and the first goal. After that we played very clever and waited for our next chances."

The previous player to have scored a First Division hat-trick was Freddie Hill, who netted all three in the 3-2 victory over Sheffield United at Burnden Park in March 1963.

But the German managed it in 38 first half minutes with a devastating display of finishing to pave the way to a landmark victory that all-but secured safety in the Premier League for a second season.

"Everyone was really pleased for Fredi," Simon Charlton said, leading the tributes to the loan star who failed to score in his first nine appearances after joining Wanderers on loan from Borussia Dortmund in January but broke his duck in the 3-2 victory over Villa the previous week.

"I wouldn't say he's struggled but I don't think he's shown in previous games what he can do. But on Saturday he looked the part.

"Apart from scoring he really put his foot in and worked tremendously hard, which he always does to be fair. Things were coming off for him so the lads and the manager are so pleased for him to come off to the standing ovation from the fans. He thoroughly deserved it."

Allardyce said a deal had been agreed to keep Bobic on at Bolton, if all parties were happy to do so in the summer, but his goals against Ipswich actually proved his last for the club.

He featured in four more games for the Whites before spells at Hannover, Hertha Berlin and Rijeka in Croatia, plus a handful of extra caps for Germany and a couple of appearances at Euro 2004.

"It's been a long haul for Fredi in terms of goals," Allardyce said at the time, "but he knows what is needed in the Premiership with the commitment and effort that he's produced and he never allowed his confidence to dip as some strikers can when they are not scoring. In his initial spell he was just getting used to the players in the Premiership. People are finding him a little bit more now and he's taking full advantage.

"I think the goal against Villa relieved the pressure."

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